What’s next? Expert predictions on the future of social media for 2023

12 Dec

“Life finds a way.”

The quote, delivered by Dr. Ian Malcolm in Steven Speilberg’s 1993 adaptation of Jurassic Park, is in reference to a lab-grown dinosaur’s will to survive. While the context is incredibly specific, the overall sentiment is not. Despite the hurdles, life—whether that be dinosaurs or people—always finds a way.

And what is life if not social?

Think about it: Human beings created the typewriter, the telephone, the web and eventually social media to communicate at scale. We’re social creatures, and platform shake-ups or passing social trends can’t change that. As long as there’s an internet, there will be people logging on to look for connection.

So when the future of social media marketing feels chaotic, remember that ambiguity can also be an opportunity. You know what you’re doing. Now’s the time to take control and lead with confidence.

To help you thrive through turbulent times, we asked our team and a few external experts what they think is in store for the future of social media. Use these insights to inform your 2023 strategy and you’ll do great things in the new year.

1. You’ll keep getting questions about joining new networks…

If you’re a social media marketer who got a late-night email about Mastodon, you’re not alone—and you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Just kidding. After all, who doesn’t need some levity after fielding hundreds of questions about what’s going on in today’s social media landscape?

“Brands are scrambling to figure out what the future of social media looks like as a result of all the recent network shake ups,” says Mike Blight, Senior Market Research Manager at Sprout Social. “These new platforms are seeing incredible growth numbers. That said, they’re in their infancy.”

In 2023, you’ll probably continue to receive the same number of network questions but don’t let that scare you. Remember, you’re the expert. Social media managers live and breathe social. If they can’t keep up with the dozens of new players in the game, it’s time to hit the pause button.

How to answer these questions in 2023

Most of these questions stem from a disconnect between people who think social first and people who don’t. If you’re not familiar with what goes into creating a social media account, you might think all it takes is a quick sign-up. Social media managers know that’s far from the truth.

Next time you’re asked about a shiny new network (or, in Tumblr’s case, a revived network), counter with a few questions of your own. What goals would the network support? Are you adequately resourced to take this on? Is your audience on this platform?

If there are no clear answers, it’s probably not worth the investment.

2. …But your main priority will be optimizing your existing ones.

When you work in social media, no day is ever the same. The networks will always keep you guessing.

While outlets and thought leaders speculate on emerging platforms, social media managers will need to keep an eagle eye on the major players.

Blight’s advice? “Pump the brakes. You have legacy platforms that you likely have not scratched the surface of optimizing. Post times, content types, etc., can still be tinkered with to figure out the perfect concoction for what your customers want from you as a brand.”

In that sense, the future of social media might look like the past, but in reality, it’s a whole new ball game. It’s time to get clear on where your audience spends time and whether that tracks with existing beliefs.

Uber Bautista, Social Media Editor at Morning Brew, has his eyes on a familiar face. “I think LinkedIn will fully embrace the social media side of their platform and become a top three network. We’ve already seen professional Tweeters migrate and become LinkedInfluencers, and I think brands who haven’t done so will follow suit.”

How to up your refine your network strategy in 2023

Your social data will be vital to leveling up your network approach this coming year.

Take a look at long-term trends in individual network performance. If you’re using Sprout, use the Cross Channel Profile Performance Report to compare trends in growth and engagement. This report will help you dig into both high and low performers.

A screenshot of Sprout's Cross Channel Profile Performance Report. This report provides a overview of social performance metrics across several networks, including impressions, engagements and post link clicks.

If you want a broader picture of where your brand stands in the competitive landscape, turn to social listening. A Competitive Analysis Listening Topic will provide an at-a-glance view of who you need to look out for and where they’re investing their resources.

A screenshot of a Competitive Analysis Listening Topic in Sprout Social. This report provides a social media share of voice report, which measures and compares total engagements, potential impressions, average unique authors and average positive sentiment.

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3. The future of social media will be all about “authenticity”

In 2022, BeReal captivated consumers and mystified marketers. Whether or not the network is here to stay is anyone’s guess, but authenticity—or the search for it, at least—isn’t going anywhere.

“BeReal became so popular with Gen Z because of the “realness” of the app,” says Samatha Mackowitz, Social Media Manager at Flywire. “It’s been interesting to see mediums that were popular before the digital age—like film photography and vinyl records—make a resurgence this year.”

In a year where “touch grass” entered the cultural lexicon as a retort to the chronically online, it makes sense that some people are actually taking the advice. As consumers attempt to find balance after a pandemic-induced surge in internet usage, content preferences will change.

“I think we’ll continue to see these themes extend across social media in 2023,” predicts Mackowitz. “For example, TikTok creators who create long-form lifestyle content are popular because they show us their everyday lives without “editing” out the bad parts. It’s more authentic.”

How brands can master authenticity in 2023

First thing’s first: What’s authentic for human beings will not seem authentic from a brand. Tactics like shock-jock social marketing may work for some quick impressions, but if you want a lasting impact, you’ll need to think differently.

Briana Rabiola, Social Media Manager at American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, plans on pulling this off by taking a people-first approach. “I think audiences want a peek behind the curtain. They want to take a look at the people and processes behind a brand.”

Prioritizing employee advocacy, proactive engagement and team spotlights can be your secret sauce for keeping it real on social next year and beyond.

4. Your brand marketing tactics will need to be on point

This year, consumers got vocal about their frustrations with network changes. In July, even some celebrities chimed in.

These sentiments unfortunately result in higher expectations for content from brands. After all, it’s the content that keeps people returning to these apps daily. If it doesn’t resonate, then what’s the point?

“There’s a changing tide in the threshold of what people are willing to accept—from the content they see to the ads they’re served—before they jump ship from a social platform,” says Tiffany Mass, Social Media Manager at Air Liquide. “I think we’ll see a bigger importance on personalization and purposeful content that meets a user’s interests. It’s the only way to hold a conversion rate and stand out within the sea of agency and creator-driven content.”

How to tell a story that resonates in 2023

According to new research from GWI, consumers are using social more to find new ideas or inspirations and less to research products or brands. That means if your posts go straight for a sale, you could be turning off would-be followers.

Instead, tap into these new interests by showing consumers how your brand complements or improves their day-to-day lives. Graza, a DTC olive oil brand, is a master at this.

If you’re on #FoodTok, you’ve probably seen this buzzy new pantry staple. Their influencer marketing strategy helped them sell out of the product within a week of its launch in January 2022. By relying on creators big and small to share their own experiences unboxing and cooking with the beautifully packaged oil, they were able to attract prospective customers without ever making a hard sell. To put it simply, they set a vibe.

You can mimic what worked here, whether you’re partnering with creators or creating content in-house. Just show your product or service in action and let consumers put two and two together from there.

5. You’ll need more hands on deck

In 2022, short-form video, images and live video claimed the top three spots in the ranking of most engaging types of in-feed social content. Now, managing a brand account takes more creative resources than ever. It’s no wonder bandwidth and time is the number one challenge for social media marketers today.

A chart breaking down social media teams' biggest challenges. In 2022, bandwidth and talent became top challenges.

The skillset it takes to be successful on social is changing. Gabby Grahek, Head of Social Media at Prime Therapeutics, believes those changes will shake up hiring practices. “I think we’ll see companies put more emphasis on hiring ‘makers’. By that I mean individuals who have professional skills in content ideation and execution.”

Let’s be clear: These individuals, often hired as social media content creators, aren’t replacements—they’re much-needed additions.

“A shift to internal agencies would be another way to put it,” says Grahek. “Instead of hiring out for the cost of billable hours, access to studios and equipment, investing in those assets themselves through thoughtful hiring and switching the perspective of social media marketing as a necessary cost center to a bonafide money maker for the business.”

How to stack your team in 2023

As you now know, the future of social media will favor connection through unpolished content and more human interactions. Make sure your team is prepared for these changes by expanding your idea of who might traditionally work in a social media-related role.

“Growing teams opens the door for all kinds of talented individuals that can join your social team,” says Blight. “Artists, producers and more “unlikely” social team members can show up on day one with the in-demand skills you need to find success on social.”

And, of course, back any gut feelings up with data. How is your growth looking across priority platforms? Is your average social media response time acceptable for your industry? Opportunities for improvement can also become a business case for expanding your team.

Shape the future of social media marketing with data

Regardless of what 2023 has in store for social media marketers, one thing is for sure: It’s time to step into your power and seize the moment. Use these predictions as thought starters for your strategy and let your performance data inform the rest.

If you need a tool that will help you create more meaning around metrics, turn to Sprout. Our social media analytics tool takes the guesswork out of your social strategy so you can focus on the bigger picture.

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The post What’s next? Expert predictions on the future of social media for 2023 appeared first on Sprout Social.

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